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Theater students study '50s for 'The Beat Cafe'

Nov 18, 2013 - From staff reports

The Central Wyoming College music and theater departments will bring together comedy, literature, dance and music from the Beat Generation with original shows scheduled at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theatre.

The performances will be wrapped together at "The Beat Cafe", and the audience is invited to sit at tables on the stage that will be transformed into a San Francisco coffee house in the 1950s.

While sipping complimentary tea or coffee and eating desserts, spectators will be treated to a variety show of Beat-period routines, said CWC theater director Mike Myers.

"The Beat Cafe" is the finale to the monthlong events celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Arts Center at CWC. With the performance and rehearsal space totally booked this month, Myers sent his students off to research the cultural phenomena of the period and return with rehearsed short performances reminiscent of the times.

"The students are learning history through theater," Myers said. "We are creating this from the ground up."

As the Beat Generation was getting under way, so was Bebop, a style of jazz from musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Music instructor Jason Ogg and a group of musicians will play the jazz tunes that were said to influence Beat writers and poets who were out to change the social consciousness of America.

Poetry readings will be accompanied by jazz and folk musicians, Myers said.

"That was very common to have this kind of improvisational musical backgrounds to poetry," he said.

The presentations by the students and some CWC alumni are self-selected.

"I've encouraged them to read about the Beat Generation so they have some kind of idea of the milieu," he said, adding that some have discovered the music of The Kingston Trio and the comedy of The Smothers Brothers to share.

The Beat Generation was the precursor to the hippy era, which theater students became familiar with when they prepared for the spring musical "Hair."

"The beats were very influential on the hippies," Myers said, using The Doors' front man Jim Morrison and Paul Simon as examples of musicians who became inspired by the Beat Generation.

The show each night is limited to 100 audience members and patrons are asked to reserve their seats by Wednesday. Myers is rating the show PG-13, signifying the material is suitable for audience members 13 and over.

Tickets for "The Beat Cafe" are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and youth. They are available at the CWC Box Office, which is open weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., or online at tickets.cwc.edu.

To assist with the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, "The Beat Cafe" cast is accepting donations of canned cranberry sauce and vegetables and/or checks payable to the Riverton High School Key Club.

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